As tens of thousands of people lie under the rubble in Haiti and a further 300,000 are made homeless, we are reminded of the devastating impact a major earthquake has on a community and the critical role humanitarian logistics operations serve in bringing relief and assistance to those affected.
These are logistical challenges far beyond our normal experiences. In Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, collapsed buildings have made many roads impassable, damage to the docks have rendered the port unusable by cargo ships and the capital’s small airport is struggling to cope with the large numbers of aid flights arriving.
The airport has only one runway and little space to marshal and unload cargo. The control tower and radar are down, with US military having to control air traffic.
These are challenges of military proportion and indeed, swift and decisive action by the US government, deploying 10,000 troops, helicopters, aircraft and significant navel resources to the scene will undoubtedly help in bringing immediate aid to these hard hit people.
However, it will be the longer-term struggle to bring the community back to a semblance of order that will require the planning, resources and determination of professional aid agencies. It will be their logistical skills, bravery and resolve to tackle hygiene issues, water shortages, medical supply and support problems – all in an environment where civil disorder may be a prevailing hazard – that will determine the speed and success of the recovery mission.
Back in November 2006, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent won the overall award for the European Supply Chain Excellence Awards in that year. Never has there been a more deserving winner.
The logistics industry should support the efforts of the IFRC by helping in whatever way we can. As a company or individual you can make a donation to the IFRC Haiti aid fund at http://donate.ifrc.org/